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DATo
September 14th, 2016, 01:06 AM
il Sindaco

by

DATo


We approached the outskirts of the town cautiously in column: a line of men on each side of the main road. A number of German infantry units acting as a rear guard to the Wehrmacht's retreat were thought to be still active in this sector. Our job was to flush them out and send reconnaissance dispatches to the rear appraising Division of what lay ahead of the general advance. We were stealing a march on old Monty who thought this was going to be his show, but General Montgomery didn’t know Patton. The American Seventh Army was advancing at breakneck speed toward the port city of Messina driven by General Patton’s desire to best the efforts of his British counterpart. The island of Sicily was being sliced into three sections by the rampaging will of two egomaniacs, but the end result was effective - the Germans were on the run.


A concentration of well hidden German artillery not far from where we were advancing had been annihilated by Alied bombers only two days before. Had that artillery been operational our entire advance would have been halted and a fierce German counter attack would most certainly have followed. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands of lives had been saved by a message carried between the lines at great risk by an Italian resistance partisan. A note, a simple note written in English, with crude diagrams, had been found in the hand of a wounded and semiconscious GI. The soldier had been stationed in a clandestine forward outpost and had apparently communicated with someone from the village we were now approaching before receiving his wounds. His condition made it impossible for him to be debriefed but he had obviously understood the importance of the information in his possession for his path back to our lines was a direct one which had thrown caution to the wind and had exposed him to hostile fire, but he was ultimately successfull. The note he carried was discovered when he was found by a routine patrol shortly after receiving his injuries.


The spire of a small church looming over the treetops told us we were close, very close, to the village. Our caution was now redoubled as we advanced in short running spurts: each dash of ten men covered by a hundred rifles. As we advanced a soldier crouching in the last row of brush before the clearing of the town hand-signaled that there was a lone civilian standing in the middle of the road which turned sharply beyond our vision. The individual proved to be a young man standing awkwardly with his hat in his hands. He was signaled to approach us. As ranking officer I made my way to the front accompanied by Bobby Chirco, our battalion cook and second-generation American of Italian descent who could speak the language fluently. Questioning the man we discovered that there were no Germans in the town and none to be found in the immediate vicinity. But the Germans were known to take hostages to effect the results they desired from the loved ones of those being detained. We did not entirely trust the man’s information and infiltrated the town with caution as though it were occupied. As we entered the streets and byways of the town people began to emerge from homes and barns. The effusive display of welcome and joy with which we were greeted convinced us that the young man’s words had not been forced. Old Italian mammas and grandmothers hugged us and patted our cheeks; young, pretty girls waved immaculate handkerchiefs and occasionally, blushingly, kissed a GI; men offered bottles of wine and their pouches of tobacco, and the village priest blessed us all. This welcome was the closest thing to a civilized reception any of us had experienced since we first landed in North Africa long before the assault on Sicily. Though we were in the midsts of an alien culture it strangely reminded us of home and all the good things left behind.


As Corporal Chirco translated, an ancient man in a black, threadbare suit was introduced to us as La Professore. The attitude of the townspeople toward La Professore was deferential and I concluded that he was a man of some importance. He spoke five languages and I gratefully determined that I could communicate with him in English. The young man who had met us on the road explained that because La Professore was very old and frail, and because he could walk only with great difficulty, the townspeople decided that despite his protests he should not be pressed into service as their representative for our initial meeting on the road. La Professore welcomed us all in behalf of the town’s citizens and offered me his home as command post. After radioing developments to Division, dispatching two squads to re-con, and supervising the establishment of a perimeter defense I was escorted to La Professore’s home, which was only a short distance away, by half the townspeople and an energetic black dog which followed us with a rapidly wagging tail and what could only be interpreted as a broad, winning smile on his face.


La Professore, after speaking a few words to the crowd which had followed us, led me inside his modest but well-tended home alone but for the galloping dog which proved to be his companion. He told me that his name was Stefano Brocca but the town had nicknamed him La Professore. “It is practically tradition for every Italian to have a nickname.” he said. “They call me ‘La Professore’ because I was once a professor at the university, but this was long ago.” He went on to tell me that his wife had died fourteen years before and he had lived alone since that time, but the people of the community saw to his welfare. Women would take turns to wash his linens and others would send food, nicely cooked for him, with their children. Men would repair his roof or replace the broken leg of a chair and there were never any charges. In short, the townspeople looked after him, and in return he offered the wisdom of his years and education. When there was a protest or supplication for aid which required a well written letter to the district patricians it was La Professore who penned the letter. When a special doctor was needed for some obscure malady the old man would make the appropriate connections with the doctors and hospitals in Palermo.


“You must be the leader of this community then I expect.” said I.


“Oh no,” he replied. “We have a new mayor, a young fellow, who was elected mayor by the town unanimously only two days ago. The former mayor was a lackey and a German collaborator. Sunday last the men of our village met in the priest’s sacristy after mass to avoid the eyes and ears of the Germans. It was then that it was decided to make an attempt to warn your army of the artillery emplacements. The former mayor, as might be expected, objected to this plan. He threatened to tell the Germans if we made any effort to implement our devices. If he had done so one can never tell what reprisals may have visited the heads of our people, but this mayor was only interested in his own profit, and his own skin.


“It was our new mayor, iL Sindaco, who delivered the message to your forces. He and I privately discussed the matter and decided that our ends could best be served if he were to take the path to the lake where we sometimes fish. The path runs very close to where only he and I knew that your forces had set up a hidden observation post. Sindaco and I have traveled this path many times, and so well do we and all of the people of the village know this path that any of us could could walk it in the pitch blackness of night. My regret is that I could not join him in this trial, but if I were younger I would have made that journey beside him. His mission resulted in some minor injuries but he has recovered nicely and is in fine spirit. It was decided that I would meet with you at this time and speak officially for him when your forces arrived.”


I was intrigued by the story I had heard, and said that I was sure our government would welcome an opportunity to recognize and honor this man for the bravery of his actions and the sacrifices he endured for he had unquestionably saved the lives of many American servicemen.


“He is a modest individual,” replied La Professore. “He would be embarrassed by undo attention. He was orphaned as an infant and this whole town has become his family. I’m sure, without question that it was his desire to repay the kindnesses he has received since his childhood in our village by risking his life to serve our interests.”


“And what of this former mayor?” I asked grimly.


“He has not been seen since the Germans left.” La Professore said vaguely. “Perhaps he went with them.” He shrugged, and appeared to take peculiar interest in something invisible to me on the table as he said very quietly, “Who knows?”


La Professore uncorked a bottle of wine and produced some bread, cheese, an onion and some olives seasoned in vinegar and salt. Despite the modesty of the repast it remains fixed in my memory as one of the best meals of my life, perhaps garnished with the knowledge of my good fortune in not having taken any casualties in the execution of our mission. La Professore told me all that was known about the German retreat as well as what armored weapons they possessed, and all that the people of the village had learned about the German lines of supply. In time I took my leave, thanking La Professore for his information and his hospitality.


He walked me slowly to the door and said, “It is not seemly that a military officer of your distinction be seen to walk through our town unescorted. Please accept my apologies but my accursed infirmities prevent me from joining you.” He then spoke to his dog, who bolted to his feet at La Professore’s first word and listened to him in rapt attention. “Pippino, escort La Capitano if you please.” Though the old man spoke to Pippino in English it was obvious that the dog understood his meaning for he accompanied me out the door while looking up at me with a broad grin while matching his every step with mine.


I made my way through a crowd of happy, lingering people with Pippino prancing proudly by my side. Corporal Chirco jogged up to meet me and provided more information which he had obtained from the people of the town during my visit with La Professore. The village doctor had requested medical supplies of which he was in dire need, and some of the townspeople humbly asked for whatever food and fuel provisions we could spare because the Germans had left them with nothing when they left. I told Chirco to let the people know that the gratitude of the Seventh Army for what their village had done to protect the lives of so many of our troops would be unsparing. As Chirco listened he crouched over to briskly rub the fur of the frisky mutt by my side.


“I see you’ve made a new friend Corporal. I think introductions are in order. Corporal Chirco, meet Pippino.”


“You know captain, that old man must really love this dog. He’s wearing a new collar, and if I’m not mistaken this name tag is made of gold, but you got the name wrong. His name isn’t Pippino, the tag says, iL Sindaco. It means, the mayor.

Jay Greenstein
September 14th, 2016, 04:40 AM
Lots of history, well written, but little story. It reads as if written by a journalist. Before a single word is spoken we have four paragraphs of info-dump—710 words, or the first three standard manuscript pages, and not a blessed thing has happened to our protagonist, so in effect, the story has yet to begin. We don't know who's speaking to us, other then being "the ranking officer."

Think about it. Does it make sense to open the story by talking about what happened before the story began? If that information matters all that much begin there.

Even the meeting with the man on the road, and what happens after is reported in synopsis. Our protagonist is, for all practical purpose, a camera, with no emotions, desires, needs, or anything to make him seem human.

In general, in any story, something is going to go wrong and force our protagonist to face a problem called "the inciting incident." It's what causes her/him to begin the effort to try to regain control of events— struggle the reader will share. Conventinal writing advice is to begin your story just before the inciting incident, with only enough time to get to know our protagonist enough to care what happens to them.

I hate to mention this because you write very well. But the writing is dispassionate, a reported series of facts, explained to the reader in the narrator's view, not that of the protagonist (the fact that the protagonist was once the person experiencing the events changes that not at all, because the narrator and the protagonist live at different times, and so cannot appear on stage together. That matters because the reader wants to live the events, not hear them explained by someone they can neither see nor hear.

At the end of what's posted we still don't know the character of our protagonist because he never had a thought. The only facial expression is the dog's smile. No one examines anything, teaches a conclusion, thinks, reflects, plans, examines, or uses any human sense. But story doesn't lie in events and history, it lives in the human heart. It lies in the uncertainty of knowing what the protagonist hopes to accomplish so well we care if their plans work or not, because story takes place in someone's "now," making the future unknown. Without our being confined to that slim slice of time there is no uncertainty, only the flow of events presented by a dispassionate external voice. Story gives us something to worry about as we share the struggle of our protagonist to control his/her environment. It lies in our caring, not just knowing.

Why that is, lies in the mirroring ability of the human mind. What I mean is explained in the article called "A mirror for the mind." Though because I wrote it I'm not permitted to link to it in the body of the post (bummer). But it's not all that hard to find.

A good article on how to place the reader in the protagonist's viewpoint is here (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-scene/).

Hope this helps

DATo
September 14th, 2016, 09:51 AM
Lots of history, well written, but little story. It reads as if written by a journalist. Before a single word is spoken we have four paragraphs of info-dump—710 words, or the first three standard manuscript pages, and not a blessed thing has happened to our protagonist, so in effect, the story has yet to begin. We don't know who's speaking to us, other then being "the ranking officer." Virtually everything you have criticized above was inspired by by the first book of the Bible - Genesis.

Think about it. Does it make sense to open the story by talking about what happened before the story began? If that information matters all that much begin there. Once again I refer you to Genesis (which, by the way, was chapter one of a best seller).

Even the meeting with the man on the road, and what happens after is reported in synopsis. Our protagonist is, for all practical purpose, a camera, with no emotions, desires, needs, or anything to make him seem human. He is not human, he is a robot. It is a little known fact that America was using androids in WWII.

In general, in any story, something is going to go wrong and force our protagonist to face a problem called "the inciting incident." It's what causes her/him to begin the effort to try to regain control of events— struggle the reader will share. Conventinal [Conventional] writing advice is to begin your story just before the inciting incident, with only enough time to get to know our protagonist enough to care what happens to them. This story can be viewed as a mise en abyme with the portion told by the professor as the operative story. Thus, the "inciting incident" (as you put it) would be the beginning of the over-arching story involving the occupation of the town.

1) I hate to mention this because you write very well. But the writing is dispassionate, a reported series of facts, explained to the reader in the narrator's view, not that of the protagonist (the fact that the protagonist was once the person experiencing the events changes that not at all, because the narrator and the protagonist live at different times, and so cannot appear on stage together. 2) That matters because the reader wants to live the events, not hear them explained by someone they can neither see nor hear. 1) Did you pay me a compliment? I'm blushing from head to toe. 2) Genesis Genesis Genesis!!!

At the end of what's posted we still don't know the character of our protagonist because he never had a thought. The only facial expression is the dog's smile. No one examines anything, teaches a conclusion, thinks, reflects, plans, examines, or uses any human sense. But story doesn't lie in events and history, it lives in the human heart. It lies in the uncertainty of knowing what the protagonist hopes to accomplish so well we care if their plans work or not, because story takes place in someone's "now," making the future unknown. Without our being confined to that slim slice of time *there is no uncertainty, only the flow of events presented by a dispassionate external voice. Story gives us something to worry about as we share the struggle of our protagonist to control his/her environment. It lies in our caring, not just knowing. *Tell that to Heisenberg. And then there is that whole bit about Schrodinger. Listen, it is a little known fact that while they were waiting to see if the poison worked the cat died of suffocation.

Why that is, lies in the mirroring ability of the human mind. What I mean is explained in the article called "A mirror for the mind." Though because I wrote it I'm not permitted to link to it in the body of the post (bummer). But it's not all that hard to find.

A good article on how to place the reader in the protagonist's viewpoint is here (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-scene/). <------ ADVERTISEMENT: I should charge you a fee for advertising on my thread.

Hope this helps. Helps who? Forward the advertising fee to PayPal.

Thanks (sincerely) for the response and the advice Greenie and please pardon my penchant for levity, my mother was frightened by a clown when she was carrying me.

Bard_Daniel
September 15th, 2016, 03:39 AM
Well I certainly thought it was a good story. I'm increasingly eager and pleased with your output DATO. In my opinion, you just keep showing off some really engaging stuff.

Keep it up! Would like to read more works by you! = D

Jay Greenstein
September 15th, 2016, 04:42 AM
Virtually everything you have criticized above was inspired by by the first book of the Bible - Genesis.Problem is, that's your intent. But hand your work to a reader and you, your intent, and everything about you becomes irrelevant. It's the reader, and what your words and their placement mean to them, based on their background and education, not yours.
He is not human, he is a robot. It is a little known fact that America was using androids in WWII.If only you were there to explain that, as the reader frowns.
This story can be viewed as a mise en abyme with the portion told by the professor as the operative story. Thus, the "inciting incident" (as you put it) would be the beginning of the over-arching story involving the occupation of the town.To you it means that. To the people in the story it may. But the one you wrote this for has not a clue because you're using a set of writing skills meant to make us useful to employers and expecting them to know your intent. Meet them half-way Write with the reader's needs in mind.

Problem is, we leave school exactly as qualified to write fiction as to pilot a fighter plane. The difference is that we leave school knowing we can't fly. But we can learn to write for our medium, just as we can learn to fly. And if we're serious about writing, doesn't it make sense to invest a bit of time and perhaps a few pennies in your professional writing education?

The points I made in the critique aren't my opinion. They're the views of the publishing industry, the teachers of professional fiction, and professional writers. So you're arguing with the wrong person.

I'll just wish you luck with your writing career.

DATo
September 15th, 2016, 10:12 AM
Many thanks danielstj. I am pleased to learn that you enjoyed the story.

Jay Greenstein - I know you (probably) mean well but none of your criticisms now or in the past have ever been of any use to me or, in my opinion, of use to any other writer for that matter. I honestly do read them and consider them thoughtfully but they are too ridiculous to take seriously. I leave it to readers of my stories to compare my work with your criticisms and decide which of us is in need of writing advice.

EDIT: Daniel, I have responded to your PM.